STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (WTRF) — Ten area youth are brightening up the community as the Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ 2022 Summer Youth Progam gets in gear.

Teens aged 14-20 are taking part in two sessions and spending three days a week beautifying local parks and buildings while earning minimum wage.

Coordinated through JCBDD’s Community Employment Services and held in conjunction with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), the program allows youth to work Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with transportation provided by the county board.

So far, they have been cleaning up Aracoma Park, the Mingo Junction City Building, and Friendship Park.

Community Employment Specialists Renee Pastre Hanlin and Angela Loppe Goodrich lead groups with help from Steven Forte, Special Olympics coordinator for Jefferson County, to complete the projects. 

Hanlin said two sessions are taking place this summer, with the first from June 7-30 and the second from July 12 to Aug. 4.

Tasks include pulling weeds, mulching, sweeping, clearing debris, raking, cleaning shelter houses, and sanitizing locker rooms at the parks to janitorial work at the city building, from mopping and dusting to disinfecting and sterilizing restrooms.

Additionally, they are helping to plant white oak, red oak, and redbud tree saplings in reclaimed areas and campgrounds at Friendship Park.

“We’re spending two weeks at Aracoma Park and the municipal building and two weeks at Friendship Park,” she explained. “The second session will be with the Steubenville Parks and Recreation for two weeks and the final two weeks at Jefferson State Lake.”

She commented that four more youth plus Forte were added to the program, which is now in its seventh year.

In addition, CES will continue to work with the teens as they get ready to graduate and enter the workforce population through pre-employment transition services.

They then have an opportunity to work on job exploration counseling; counseling on post-secondary education programs; workplace readiness training; and instruction in self-advocacy. 

“Through the pre-employment transition services, we hope to continue working with these students and hopefully they can come back for the summer youth program next year. A couple of students we’ve had in previous programs are already working full-time jobs,” Hanlin noted. “When they graduate and transition into adulthood, they are ready to transition into entry-level jobs.” 

Participants include Dylan Haines, Clarissa Whiteman, Macy Bigler, Jacob Watt, Logan Briggs, Drew Schroyer, Brock Burnett, Andrew Akins, James Wooden, and Elijah Lee. Several of the teens said they enjoy the experience and earning money. 

“I like making money,” said 19-year-old Haines. “I’m saving it for the Washington County Fair and Canfield Fair.” 

“I am buying a car,” added Whiteman, a 17-year-old who said she likes working.

 “It would help me and my family out,” said Bigler, 19.

“It’s great,” commented Watt, who is 18. “I’ll get to find a job in the Ohio Valley. I may work for a restaurant or do Door Dash because I have my driver’s license.” 

“I like it because I get paid,” said Briggs, who is also 18. “I like getting a bunch of cash and I’d love to help out my family.” 

Some openings are still available, so contact Hanlin or Goodrich at (740) 266-3839 or email rpastre@jcbdd.com or aloppe@jcbdd.com for more information.